Sell sell sell
If you had have told me that Tottenham would spend the summer off-loading deadwood, I would have told you that lucid dreaming is as good as life will get for Spurs fans.
But it’s true. Glenn Hoddle and ENIC have finally done what should have been done twelve months ago – sent the crap packing.
What began last season with highly paid stars like Tim Sherwood and Sergei Rebrov, continued through the summer with the likes of Steffen Freund, Ben Thatcher, Teddy Sheringham and hopefully very soon, Steffen Iversen and Darren Anderton.
Sherwood rarely performed for Tottenham – a sign that he had lost what he had, or perhaps never had it in the first place. Poor old Sergei Rebrov went from Champions League hot-shot to Worthington Cup substitute. Quite how the Ukranian managed to look so out of place is a mystery.
Teddy had reached the end of the road long before his move to Portsmouth earlier this month, and Steffen Freund, a cult figure more than a capable player, was living on borrowed time at Spurs. Ben Thatcher represents the worst value for money purchase in the history of football. Anywhere. Ever.
The two players on the brink of moving on, Iversen an Anderton, deserve two very different mentions. Iversen, signed as a raw 19 year old by Gerry Francis, showed plenty of potential early on in his career. He has scored some memorable goals, and his “golden” season of 1999/2000 remains the highlight. But after that he reverted to type – a slow, laborious, plodding, overweight ‘talent’, bereft of a first-touch, sans a football brain and without the ability to judge the flight of a football.
Darren Anderton, the butt of many (admittedly, hilarious) jokes looks set to move to Portsmouth as his first team opportunities become more limited under Hoddle next season. There are a few ways of looking at this. Few would argue that Anderton has seen better days. His form is erratic, and although still capable of some superb performances, more often than not he is left wanting.
However, he is still a favourite of Hoddle’s and despite maybe not being a first-choice player next year, the manager would probably prefer to keep him in reserve. I have a feeling that the board have suggested to Hoddle that Anderton’s £45k a week (including his appearance bonus) can be channeled into a new, healthier signing. I imagine that it is with some reluctance that Hoddle is allowing Darren to move on.
Anderton deserves a great reception on any future return to White Hart Lane. After his shaky beginnings as a nervous 20 year old in 1992, he matured into one of the most popular and naturally gifted players in England. But injury struck him in 1995 and over the next three seasons he only played 27 league games. Miraculously he managed to recover to feature in England’s Euro 96 and World Cup 98 teams.
But even though the rest of his Tottenham career was blighted by niggling injuries, he battled on and his commitment could never be called into question. He rejected a move to Manchester United in the mid-nineties and If he is released, it will be with a feeling that he never fully reached his potential.
But there are still a few more players that really should hit the bricks.
Gary Doherty – an Irish legend, but a Spurs misfit. The center-back began so brightly at Spurs, forming part of a rugged back-three with Sol Campbell and A N Other, under George Graham. But when injury forced Graham and Hoddle to use Doherty as a forward, things fell apart. Struggling to make an impact (and stay onside for more than 30 seconds), the Doc became a target for frustrated fans. Of course these same fans should have been directing their anger at the real criminal of the piece – a very poor manager – but that’s another column altogether.
But the Doc has shone on the international stage, rescuing Ireland with some inspired goals and performances, and with the praise ringing in his ears, Gary should not be afraid to move on and find a first team place, perhaps in Division One.
We hear plenty about Hoddle being hamstrung by other managers overdraft-chewing signings, but Born Again is leaving his own legacy at White Hart Lane in the form of lumps like Goran Bunjevcevic and Milenko Acimovic. The Balkans don’t even come close to being good enough for the top half of the table and despite Acimovic getting some peculiar fan support this summer, you have to ask what he’s done to warrant it. He looks to be a Bolton player, and frankly I’d send him there and get a real class player, Okacha, up to the Lane.
Bunjevcevic can knock out a cultured pass every now and again but his attempts at playing the holding midfield position are about as successful as Posh Spice’s attempts at subtlety. His best position might be central defence but with Gardner, King and Richards ahead of him (at least), he might be better off packing his bags.
But there’s more
But the sales are only one half of the happy story this month. The other half are the signings.
20-year old striker Helder Postiga, frankly previously unknown to me, is a player with a big future in the game it seems. The Portuguese striker who has made his name at Porto and recently for the international team, chose to display his undoubted talent at Spurs. Why? I have no idea.
But lets be positive about things for a change. If this fast and skilful attacker can acclimatise to English football, Tottenham could have a player capable of propelling Spurs into Europe at last.
And this weekend saw Spurs capture another young talent, although one with a bigger question mark hanging over him. Bobby Zamora finally made the step up from Brighton to the Premiership after two years of rumours and conjecture. But the 22-year old struggled somewhat in Division One (14 goals in 35 games), and Hoddle must be hoping he can harness the kid’s undoubted raw talent. As it is, Zamora is likely to be a substitute – but with no previous top flight experience, you can’t expect him to be an impact player.
Come Back Brighter
So are things brighter for Spurs this season? Reluctantly I’d have to say ‘yes’. And why am I reluctant? Because I’m sick and tired of disappointment. Going to games is a costly exercise for me – four or five trips to White Hart Lane is equivalent to an entire season ticket practically, so it must really be worth it for me to fly over.
This year I think there are going to be better players on display. But – and it’s a big but – it’ll all be for nothing if Glenn-doh doesn’t get more tactically aware, flexible in his team selection and encourage movement on the pitch.
Good old Chelsea, giving us something to enjoy this summer. I’m not a fan of Chelsea, or indeed their odd manager, but if they manage to bring some top-notch talent to this country I’ll be only to happy to enjoy watching them.
But the whole thing doesn’t look as good so far in reality as it did in the newspaper rumour columns. Thus far we have seen them sign three players. Two of them are young British full-backs. Fine and dandy, but £6m on a rookie right-back who might be on loan to Crystal Palace in three months? And how clever are Southampton for snapping up £7m for the reasonable but hardly brilliant Wayne Bridge? Look at how Sunderland and Brighton messed up by not selling over-valued players when they had the chance (Kevin Phillips and Bobby Zamora are worth a fraction of what they used to be).
Geremi is an excellent player but he looked good at Middlesbrough last season – he hasn’t been able to break in at the top level with Real Madrid – that’s where Chelsea aspire to be so shouldn’t they sign players who are potentially good enough for that level? And why try and sign Veron? Why?
As for Damien Duff – an excellent player, but 17m is far too much and Blackburn should be hoping that Duff will go. Having said that they will struggle without him next year.
The jury is out on whether or not Chelsea can pull in the big names from the big clubs, but with a month to go, they might sign themselves someone who will make them genuine contenders. So far they haven’t.